I was recently asked what my favourite travel experience is and I didn't even have to think about it – road trips! I love the sense of freedom and adventure of having your own vehicle and being able to stop in places you'd never normally see. Singing along to a fun playlist or listening to a podcast as you drive through the mountains, stopping off for photos and snacks.
During our time in Querétaro (more on that next week), we rented a car for a weekend and drove up to the Sierra Gorda mountain range. There's so much to see in this part of Mexico. It's not often visited, at least not by international tourists, so it was a great chance to get off the beaten track a little.
Hiring a car
We hired a car from Europcar at the airport (to avoid the stress of driving in the city) for two days. It cost M$450 per day, fully insured with no excess, and we even ended up getting an upgrade.
Driving in Mexico, at least outside of the cities, wasn't much different from anywhere else. The roads are in good condition and people tend to stick to standard driving rules (people drive on the right).
We decided to do a loop from Querétaro city (officially called Santiago de Querétaro, but no one calls it that here) to the Sierra Gorda and back. We stopped off at Peña de Bernal, the Cuatro Palos viewpoint, Jalpan de Serra, the Quinta Fernando Schmoll botanical garden, Tequisquiapan and Barbacoa Santiago (which is meant to have the best tacos in the world).
It was actually a little much to fit into two days and we spent a lot of time in the car. If we were doing it again I would either add an extra day or cut down on some of the stops. There were also things in the Sierra Gorda that we had to skip that looked great, like the Chuveje waterfall.
Peña de Bernal
Our first stop was Peña de Bernal, a colourful little town with the third largest monolith in the world. It's also famous for its gorditas, little tortilla pockets with various fillings. They're my new favourite snack and these were the best we've had in Mexico so far.
Driving through the Sierra Gorda
Once we got into the Sierra Gorda, things started to get beautiful. The road twists and turns as it goes up and down the mountains. Not the easiest place to drive, but lots of great views for the passenger (in this case, me!).
If we'd known what the road was going to be like leading up to Cuatro Palos, we wouldn't have attempted it. But with no idea what it would be like, we took a chance and bumped along a dirt road for 5 km until we got to this:
At Cuatro Palos village you can get a guide to take you up to a viewpoint over the mountains. There's even a little campsite up there (if this is an option for you, do it!).
From Cuatro Palos it was a long drive through the mountains to get to Jalpan de Serra, a small town in the heart of the Sierra Gorda, where we parked up and had an early night.
For more on the road trip, read about day two.